Friday, September 2, 2011


For the past several weeks, one or two turkey hens have arrived early in the morning to the sanctuary with their brood of 8-10 poults in tow. They would fly over the sanctuary fence, walk amongst the cows, and then head over to the pig pasture. In the late afternoon, I'd watch as the gangly turkey chicks followed their more graceful mothers back through the cow pasture and off to wherever they roosted at night. Although I had no part in the endeavor, it was hard not to feel a bit of pride and joy watching such peaceful, happy beings.

Today, as I left to go home, my eyes scanned for traffic and in the periphery was flapping. An incongruity. So I peered close and saw a wing. Literally. For a moment I thought the wispy feathers belonged to a crow or another smaller bird. Then I saw her. A few feet away, the body of a turkey hen.

Getting out of the car, I approached. Against all hopes, I thought maybe, just maybe, it was only a wing and she could be the one-winged turkey at the sanctuary. Stupid, I know. Of course she was dead. I touched bronze-colored feathers and felt the warmth of a cooling body. Moments earlier, she was alive. Moments! Her life in all its vibrant glory had been cut short by something a wild turkey should never ever encounter under any normal circumstances - a vehicle.

I could not leave her there. I just couldn't. I thought of her babies, and hoped they were with the other hen, that they would survive the night in a tree, motherless but with each other.

Driving back into the sanctuary, I grabbed a towel and garbage bag, and asked my friend if we could maybe bury her. Permission granted, I drove back to the end of the driveway.

You know how some moments leave you feeling like the world is just an awful, horrible place? Like we have just screwed up so much that only a mass exodus, a genocide of global proportions could cleanse away the harm we have caused? It's always been in these small moments that I've felt such anguish for this world.

Because as I picked her up, I felt how so very broken she was. So broken. Everything inside of her had crumpled upon impact. Her neck, spine, ribs, legs, all of it had collapsed against the sheer force of an inanimate, fast-moving object. I clutched her to my chest, willing her back to life. Demanding she stop being broken and start being alive. I hated us all in that moment.

There is no rainbow of hugs and puppies in this story. She should be alive and raising her young. She should be facing the travails of life in nature with its brutality and beauty wrapped up in a package of chaotic simplicity. She is not, though. Because someone decided going fast down a straight stretch of road was more important than a turkey. Because we, in all our great wisdom and intelligence and empathy, sometimes just really suck. We leave carnage in our wake.

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